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Seen Your Video: The Black Dancers in “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 5, 2009


Tears for Fears were always a band out of time. Oh, they were 80s through and through, from the hair cuts to the synth horns to the overly-emotive vocals. But despite being a band permanently associated with a time period, they were an oddly peerless group. Think about it–who, if pressed, would you say was Tears for Fears’ closest point of comparison? What other bands would they have hung out with then? What do their fans tend to look or act like? Who today would cite them as an influence–either ironically or sincerely? It’s hard to say with any of these, because their appeal is such a jarring one–a mixture of the brazenly commercial (huge hooks, anthemic choruses, immaculate production) and the unapologetically insular (obscure lyrics, obsessions with Primal Scream therapy, being named Roland Orzabal) that just isn’t found much anywhere, let alone the top of the charts. It’s that quality that makes their biggest hits so indelible, I think–the way the songs manage to sound and feel so familiar, and yet totally singular.

This quality extends to their music videos, as well. These were traditionally big, widescreen productions, from the sweeping cinemtagrophy of “Shout” to the mini-drama of “Head Over Heels” and the integrated animation–after Peter Gabriel was doing it, but before EVERYONE was doing it–of “Sowing the Seeds of Love.” But they were still videos with mysteries, with ambiguous plots and elements you just couldn’t put your finger on. Prime example would be their biggest hit of all, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” The song was intended as a “driving song,” meant to appeal to us simple Americans and our highway-blazing ways, and the video certainly features no small amount of actual hitting the road to drive that point home (pun semi-intended). But that concession to populism aside, the video’s weird–like a Duran Duran video directed by Jim Jarmusch, featuring lots of open, sparse landscapes and strange characters given little story or background.

The weirdest of all, of course, has to be the two black dancers. They show up from nowhere during the song’s instrumental break, at the gas station where much of the video takes place, both handsomely dressed in the exact same fashion, like two of the remaining Drifters or Platters. In front of the gas pumps, they perform a perfectly synchronized dance number as Orzabal’s guitar echoes on in the background. It’s my favorite part of the song, actually–where after having built the song’s intensity for the last two and a half minutes into that booming chorus, everything drops out but the drums and that brilliant, shimmering guitar line that introduced the song, as gradually the bass and keyboards add to the melody until it just explodes into Orzabal’s piercing (albeit not terribly virtuosic(?)) guitar solo. The build-up for that last, biggest chorus is absolutely incredible, so tense and emotional…and here it is being soundtracked by this borderline-offensive synchronized dance bit.

And it works. It works so beautifully. I can’t possibly explain it. I hesitate to even try. But something about it–maybe its just the combination of music and fluid motion, maybe its something disquieting and sad about the dance routine, maybe its just the fact that you put just about anything over that instrumental break and it’ll look brilliant–something about it I find ridiculously compelling, almost moving. I have no idea who these guys are, what Tears for Fears or director Nigel Dick (who, by the way, also went on to direct another of my all-time inexplicable favorites, Oasis’s “Champagne Supernova,” and a whole bunch of other classics) saw in them, how or why they ended up being in this video. But they made it a classic, they made it absolutely unforgettable. No amount of additional highway driving (or plane flying, or dune buggy riding, or any number of the other transportational methods featured in this video) could have made up for that.

Tears for Fears. What a great band.

Posted in Seen Your Video | 10 Comments »

TV OD: AMTV Rips It Up and Starts Again

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 29, 2009


After all my lamentations on the death of the music video over the last few years, it’s almost unthinkable for me to writing about something that appears to be taking steps to reverse this trend. When MTV trotted out “FnMTV” about a year ago–Pete Wentz’s attempt to bring the vid back to national prominence–I was somewhat skeptical from the getgo, and it quickly proved my worst fears right, as Wentz seemed more interested in hob knobbing with the celebrity guests than actually playing the videos in their entirety, and as fascinating as it was to see Nas commenting on She & Him videos, it was just a recipe for inevitable disaster. This hullabaloo wasn’t what the music video medium needed to re-introduce itself to a new generation of MTV watchers–what it really needed was just a regular, consistent block of time where MTV played new, quality videos in their entirety.

And so, hallelujah for AMTV. Currently airing on weekday mornings from either 3:00-6:00, 6:00-9:00, or occasionally throughout both blocks, AMTV is pretty much everything I could have hoped for in MTV attempting to reintroduce their one-time signature programming construct to their regular lineup. How exactly is that, you ask? Well…

  • It Plays (Mostly) Full, Uninterrupted Videos. Even when FnMTV used to have reruns of its content throughout the week during early-morning programming, they never seemed to show more than two minutes of a video at a time–which got infuriating, especially because they would often repeat those two-minute sections multiple times in the same hour-long block. But on the episodes I’ve watched/taped of AMTV thusfar, only one or two videos an episode have been cut short, the rest played in their glorious entirety. And perhaps more importantly, they’re not distracted from by any on-screen gimmickry–honestly, I never much cared that 70% of viewers liked Beyonce’s outfit in “Single Ladies,” or that SashaFierce1234 thought it was her hottest joint eva.
  • It Premieres Videos. Hey, I don’t mind a little bit of fanfare when the big guns are coming out with some new hot ones. Green Day hasn’t had a video out in over three years, and they’ve been one of the biggest acts on the channel for the last decade-and-a-half. It’s only appropriate that a new clip should be advertised for throughout the week, with making-of footage spliced throughout, all leading up to a solid premiere event. I don’t need an MC telling me what a big deal the premiere is, or a lot of screaming fans behind them to confirm it. Let the channel and its content speak for themselves.
  • It Shows Good (Or Unexpected, At Least) Videos. I still can’t believe some of the artists and videos that have been getting played on this program. Glasvegas’s “Geraldine.” Silversun Pickups’ “Panic Switch.” Friendly Fires’ “Skeleton Boy.” Bat for Lashes’ “Daniel.” Underground bands that barely even get played on the most modern of FM rock stations, and their weirdo vids? It used to be that I would have to troll the MTV2 schedule on late weeknights in the hopes of catching the once-a-week, hour-long 120 Minutes successor Subteranean if I wanted to have any chance to see videos like this on any major network–now they’re getting played along with Jesse McCartney and Kelly Clarkson on MTV? Say what you jaded fuxx may, I still think that’s some pretty cool shit.
  • It Shows Old Videos. Hey, the kids have to learn about Jane’s Addiction’s “Been Caught Stealing” somewhere, right? Back when I first started watching music videos, the only way I had to really learn about the history of the medium was to sniff out the older videos that MTV mixed in with their regular rotation, since traditionally only the most important videos continued to get played at all past their expiration date. To see AMTV reach into the vaults to give classics like Dr. Dre’s “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang,” or even more recent clips like Foo Fighters’ “Learn to Fly”…well, it may not be digging particularly deep, but least it shows that the channel is willing to acknowledge that the music video does in fact have a past, and one worth remembering–something the channel has simply not done at all in close to a decade.
  • It Has Cool Little Inter-Video ID Clips. MTV used to seem to be having fun with its video programming, and they would have seemingly pointless but surprisingly well thought out inter-video clips to act as station and program IDs. The ones for AMTV–showing clips of tired, frustrating looking people in the morning hours while poorly dated pop songs of the past (“Ice Ice Baby,” “Hangin’ Tough,” “What’s Up?”) blare in the background–probably weren’t exactly labor-intensive, but they’re marginally cute, and have that kind of fun spirit that the old IDs used to. I’ll stop to watch ’em in between vids just to see if there’s one I haven’t seen yet. It’s the little things, you know.

Yes, I’m aware that showing unglamorized music videos at hours where only the damned are actually awake doesn’t exactly mark a paradigm shift. But it’s more of a step in the right direction than the reurns of From Gs to Gents and The Girls of Hedsor Hall that would be in their place, certainly.

Posted in Seen Your Video, TV O.D. | 1 Comment »

Seen Your Video: Josh Homme Heatin’ Up

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 27, 2008

Do you believe it in your head?

So apparently Josh Homme was upset at some people throwing things at him in Northern Europe, and drew heat from some corners for his arguably homophobic remarks and from other corners for his inarguably idiotic remarks. I’m a week or so behind on this one (surprise), but I can’t let an exemplary musician on-stage rant like this go without making at least a couple of notes:

  • I guess it says something for the progress of sexuality equality that even Oslo isn’t far away enough for potential bigots to get away with publicly calling someone a “faggot”. Soon enough, homophobia is going to be like smoking pot, with wanna-be bigots like Isaiah Washington and Tim Hardaway having to go to specific corners of distant continents to be able to practice in public without fear of reprisal.
  • I do think it is somewhat ironic, however, that a guy that named his band “Queens of the Stone Age” specifically because the name “Kings” sounded too masculine should come under fire for homophobia. I mean, it doesn’t exactly make him as bulletproof as if he had regularly made out with Dave Grohl on stage, but for a metal band, I’d have to say that that the name thing alone already pegs him as a fairly progressive dude.
  • By referring to himself as “Mr. Missundastood” in his apology / letter of defense, is Homme trying to curry favor by referring to one of the funniest-titled albums in history? If so, cheers, but everyone knows that it’s spelled with an exclamation mark instead of an “i” and a “z” instead of a third “s.” C’mon Josh, do your homework.
  • I think what’s underrated in this rant here is the foresight Homme shows by specifically pointing out how sick he is (102 degrees–pretty sick!) while he’s making his rant. “I had a fever” is generally a better excuse for irrationally asshole-ish behavior than “I was drunk”–it puts things more out of your hands, and doesn’t make you seem like a deranged alcoholic in the process. And saying you’re sick while in the process of ranting means it doesn’t sound like a shabby after-the-fact explanation afterwards. If Mel Gibson had just said “I’m coming down with the flu, sugartits!” his situation would’ve been a lot more sympathetic, no?
  • Apparently the last time Homme landed in hot water, for getting into a bar fight with Dwarves lead singer Blag Dahlia (possibly over the “Takeover”-worthy lyric: “This one goes out to Queens of the Trust-Fund, you slept on my floor, now I’m sleeping through your motherfuckin’ records”), Homme got a reduced sentence by letting the LAPD use “Feel Good Hit of the Fall” in anti-drunk driving films. So does that mean that Afroman (it all comes back to Afroman) essentially has a get-out-of-jail-free card in case he ever gets busted for anything? Pretty sweet deal.
  • So does everyone speak English in Norway, then? Is it possible that the audience just thought Homme was making some empty “WHO WANTS TO GET ROKKKKED?!?!??!” type stage banter? Or do they just think that “GET YOUR FUCKING ASS UP HERE! YOU’RE SO STUPID THAT YOU’LL ACTUALLY COME UP HERE!!!! LIFT HIM UP SO I CAN KICK HIM IN THE FUCKING FACE!!” is what passes for stage banter in these crude United States? Cultural studies potential.
  • “Little Sister.” that was a pretty good song, huh?

Posted in I Sez, Seen Your Video | 5 Comments »

Seen Your Video: Daft Punk – “Da Funk”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 21, 2008

“Yo, that’s a good song…”

Just some thoughts:

  • That is a good song. Perhaps being reactionary or revisionist or some such but much as I love Discovery, it’s the singles from Homework that still kick my ass without fail whenever they come on. And “Da Funk” is just one of the grimiest, ruffest, baddest slices of squelchy 4/4 bliss I’ve ever heard. Say what you will about the big beat era, but this thing has gotten better and better every year since its release.
  • I didn’t even realize how many of Spike Jonze’s classic videos use their soundtracking song as diagetic sound–as a gymnast’s routine tape in the Chemical Brothers’ “Elektrobank,” as the Torrance Dance Community Troupe’s jam of choice in Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” and as the song pumping on dogman Charles’ stereo in this one. I can’t think of another video director that pulled this off so successfully in one video, let alone in three.
  • Ever since I learned on the commentary of the Spike Jonze DVD (a must-have for any music video fan of any degree, of course) that they had to turn all the labels away from the camera in the grocery store scene (licensing issues of sorts I believe), that’s all I can focus on when I watch it. Check it, it’s almost a little creepy.
  • Is it weird how much I can still relate to the Dogman in this? I know the feeling of being paranoid about getting mocked by snotty kids on the street. I know what it’s like to so want to seem useful to someone that I’d be disappointed when the random survey lady on the street no longer wanted to avail herself of my services. And I definitely still wouldn’t have gotten on the bus with my childhood neighbor for dinner if I had to give up my radio.
  • How disturbing is that shot in the Grocery Store when Dogman Charles makes a corny joke to still-confused neighbor Beatrice and tilts back his head to laugh, and you see all his weird teeth and shit? Up until that point he’s just a loveable sadsack, then you realize, “Wait a minute, this creature is an abomination of nature!” I mean, if you saw the Mushroom dude from Star Wars in your local bodega, you probably wouldn’t stop to consider how lonely and homesick the guy was before you broke out the tranquilizer gun, would you?.
  • I wonder why no one ever talks about the Dogman-makes-good sequel video to “Da Funk,” “Fresh.” In this one, our hero finds himself a success as an actor on the West Coast, still has trouble finding real connection with people, but at least gets himself a happy ending of sorts. Not as poignant as “Da Funk” I suppose, but certainly better than all those boring anime vids they made for the Discovery singles.
  • Despite how great the song is, how great the video is, and how brilliantly they work together–how the hell did Jonze and the Dafters possibly decide that this was the path to go with this video? I mean, now the two aren’t even slightly disassociable, but who hears a fucking monster jam like “Da Funk” and thinks to themselves, “Hm, I see a fish-out-of-water wandering out a big city on his own. Possibly in the form of an anthropomorphized dog.” This song isn’t exactly “The Boxer,” you know.
  • Say a prayer for that dog. drummer Tony Maxwell, the man behind the dogman in “Da Funk” and “Fresh,” who will never be able to believably drop that line as a hook at parties and such. I mean, in terms of iconic video status, it’s not quite the jungle chick from “Hungry Like the Wolf,” but I’d certainly want to drop that shit all the time if I had a credit like that on my resume. And yet Tony Maxwell is still probably better known as being the drummer for that dog. than actually being That Dog. Sucks.

Posted in Seen Your Video | 1 Comment »